America’s Federal Communications Commission has begun to take meaningful action in paving the way for 5G connectivity. In what FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said could be the organization’s most important vote of the year, its members unanimously approved a plan to open up spectrum for 5G networks, which will be auctioned off to major telecoms.
The move follows the emergence earlier this year of bi-partisan Senate legislation aimed at getting the private sector to work with government to plan Internet of Things policy, and urging the FCC to determine spectrum support. But it reflects a larger, international movement toward 5G connectivity, largely in anticipation of the IoT, with the GMSA recently having come forward as a supporter of the 5G Manifesto for Timely Deployment of 5G in Europe shortly after this year’s Mobile World Congress Shanghai event.
For the US, the FCC’s move serves to propel its domestic tech industry, helping it to stay competitive with international counterparts as the IoT emerges. Meanwhile, another FCC vote, aimed at allowing telecoms to replace old landline phone networks with newer technologies including wireless networks, complemented the effort to move toward better connectivity.
Ars Technica notes that at least one critic—Michael Calabrese of New America’s Open Technology Institute—voiced concern over the big telecoms’ anticipated control over spectrum bands that would only see use in urban and high-traffic areas, arguing for public access to unused spectrum; but otherwise the FCC’s recent efforts were widely met with approval from lobby groups and consumer advocates. And whatever their shortcomings, together the votes help to illuminate the future anticipated for communications—one that is digital, wireless, and very fast.